Monday, August 2, 2010

The Thirteenth Chime by Emma Michaels

Pub date - August 13th, 2010.

No one knew of its existence until it was removed from the attic upstairs.

In a beautiful house that overlooks the sea, an antique clock has the power to change the course of their lives.

The power the clock resonates will not only force Destiny and ex-boyfriend David on a journey into the depths of one man's mind long dead, b
ut into the mind of a man filled with hatred and bent on revenge.

With the only clues to the nature of the clock having disappeared into the sea, Destiny and David must retrace the steps the man had taken into the darkness, before they fall prey to the trap he had set in motion over half a century ago.

Hatred never dies. (from

After careful consideration, I’ve decided to publish my review of The Thirteenth Chime by Emma Michaels. For a while I was very torn. After I finished reading it, I had my opinions which went against, literally, every single review out there. No, I wasn’t worried about what the author might think. When has that ever stopped me? What made me hesitant was what my fellow book bloggers might think as Emma Michaels was/is a book blogger.

There seems to be this feeling of unadulterated support for her because of her book blogging status. She’s a book blogger so we must support her. I support anyone that has the dream of becoming an author. Writing has been my life and I would never deny it for someone else. But I will not support by pandering, lying or being dishonest. I will support by telling the gods-honest truth as I see it because that’s what I feel this book desperately needs.

I’m not trying to convince anyone not to like this book. If you want to like it, it’s your prerogative. But as a writer, editor and book blogger, I could not, in good conscience, let the community get people’s hopes up for a book that I feel doesn’t deserve the unabashed praise its been getting.

You don’t have to agree with me. In fact, I really don’t care if you do. Just remember I’ve been doing this long enough that I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about. Plus I really don’t want that $75,000 in student loan debt to be in vain. With that being said, I’m going to treat Emma’s book as I would any other author’s.


I wanted to dump this book after the first word. I absolutely abhor the name Destiny. It’s used so often in Suefic that it’s hard for me to disassociate it. But that certainly wouldn’t have been fair. Judging a book because I don’t like the name of the main character? Silly. So I gave it the benefit of the doubt and kept reading.

By the fifth page I was Googling the publisher to make sure I wasn’t reading a book from a vanity press. After verifying that it didn’t look like they were pay-to-publish, I read on. Oh how badly I wanted to stop but I made it to the end for only one reason – to see if Michaels could write the ending. She couldn’t.

Where to start?

Let’s start by saying that I felt like I was reading the first draft of a person’s very first novel who only has a couple years of high school-level English classes behind them. The idea was undeveloped and the writing was mediocre at best.

The writing as a whole was horribly mechanical. I felt as if Michaels just didn’t know how to transition anything so it felt like I was reading a laundry list of actions. “They went there. Then they walked over here. They got filled in on what happened. They left.” Everything was totally devoid of emotions. I was told everything and shown nothing. I didn’t feel any of the action or suspense or character emotions. I was just told what they were and then we carried on.

The incessant passive voice kept me away even more. Had, had, had, had, had, had, had. Absolutely no sense of immediacy. And then there were the dialogue tags after every single line of dialogue. Not. Necessary. If the characters’ emotions need to constantly be portrayed through dialogue tags, then there’s something wrong with the dialogue.

The voice was strange as well. It looked as if Michaels might have been pushing for omniscient third but she wanted to keep some mystery behind what was happening in order to heighten tension by denying the reader information that the characters, whose heads you're in, knew. Which you can’t do in omniscient third. Because it’s omniscient. I wasn’t biting my nails in suspense; I was trying to keep from hurling my eReader across the room. It’s way too expensive to sacrifice.

I actually liked the very base premise between the clock and the jail but the development of it was so immature that as a whole, I don’t think it’s even salvageable.

The characters were pretty unlikable too. The woman and her daughter from the antique shop were pretty pointless except to be moody infodumps when needed. David’s just fucking ridiculous. Over the course of the story he carries an unconscious Destiny down a mountain in a blizzard with a busted knee, damn near drowns at sea (yet is such a great swimmer despite the fact that he’s terrified of the water that he could swim to shore after piloting a boat that capsized during a raging storm) and then falls off a cliff onto some rocks, rolls into the water and then manages to actually scale back up the cliff free hand. By that point I was laughing. Absurd. Stephanie’s a tramp and a horrible friend. Her David-lust (which is Destiny’s ex) is joked about yet serious but I couldn’t laugh at that. Your best friend’s ex is off limits. I thought that was a pretty golden rule. Leslie’s unconscious for 90% of it and Destiny’s hollow, serving only to be rescued by the superhuman David. There was absolutely no character development or growth whatsoever, despite everything that happened. That was bothersome.

Outside of David’s world of Murphy’s Law, there were other equally contrived and self-serving events in the story. For instance, the tree that falls in front of the house decides, after lying still for a bit, to not only roll over the only car but roll right in front of the house’s only entrance (which is implausible in and of itself) to further inhibit the characters. Really? Was there a kitchen sink we could have thrown in there too? The ending might as well have been rocks fall and everyone dies. Except in this case Super David unburies everyone with only one arm and everything turns out a-okay.

Between the juvenile writing and the blip of a story idea buried underneath it, this should have been a trunk novel, without a doubt. Kill your darling and move on.

I honestly can’t recommend this book to anyone. Why? I wouldn’t recommend anyone read anyone else’s first draft of anything ever. It’s just not ready for anyone else’s eyes but the author’s. It’s poorly written, the idea is poorly executed, it’s not scary in the slightest and at the end of the day it could have used, at the very least, one total rewrite, if not more.

I wish Emma the best of luck with writing in the future. I really do. But if I had to be frank (and why wouldn’t I be?), I would highly recommend a good honest critique group. These writing flaws are not fatal and can be killed dead with some solid constructive criticism. The want to succeed is there. I can see that. But there’s a lot of room for improvement.


Lenore said...

Looks like it is a series too. eek!

The Lovely Reader said...

I always love your reviews. So honest. I think I'll still try the book, but I'm not looking forward to it as much. Your reviews pretty much match my ideas on a lot of things.

Donna said...

Lenore, yup. It's a planned trilogy, I believe.

Thank you, TLR! If you want to try it by all means try it but, in my humble opinion, I don't think it deserves all of the crazy praise it's been getting.

Adriana said...

I love how honest your reviews are. I think a reason for positive reviews might be because bloggers feel like they somewhat know the person. Which will more than like result in biased reviews and are based on how they feel about the author and not the book itself. I'm still not sure if I'd want to read this or not.

Marie said...

I like how honest your review is!

I'm still curious to check out this book though!

Emma Michaels said...

I respect your opinion and am sorry that you felt my novel was a waste of your time.

Wishing you many wonderful reads in the future.

Emma Michaels

Khadija said...

I don't know i kind of liked it, for a first novel it was good. I'm actually kind of exited to see it being built on.

Sonja said...

"The incessant passive voice kept me away even more. Had, had, had, had, had, had, had. "

I could be mistaken (especially since I have a headache and haven't had anything to eat for twelve hours, impeding my brain from working), but "had" isn't a requirement for passive voice (though it can be used in a passive voiced sentence) because the markers of a passive voice construction is a "be" verb + a past participle and by putting the object of a sentence in a subject role. I apologize if I'm misunderstanding you in some way.

Anyway, I don't mean to be that Grammarian, as, despite the insanely difficult class I had last spring, the nuances of English grammar still escape me.

Also, I think it's cool that you decided to post the review. It always takes a special amount of guts to go against the tide.

The Book Obsession said...

Thanks for being so honest! =]
This one looked so good, ah well covers and descriptions and be deceiving

Donna said...

Sonja, I'm talking about usage. He had gone to the store instead of He went to the store. It creates that game of time in the telling that removes the immediacy of the action that should be there. Maybe I'm using the wrong terminology? Believe it or not, casting grammar was never my thing. I know good from bad but don't ask me to name it! But yeah, through all of my writing classes and critique groups and whatnot, I was always told to skip the passive voice (he had done) and move it forward in time (he did) to keep the reader engaged and not feeling like they're reading a rehashing of events but like they're living them with the characters. Does that make sense?

Marce said...

I am extremely impressed with your honest review, brutal but honest. I'm still new to your blog so am happy you say what you want.

I think I will still try it because she is a blogger turned published author.

Harmony B. said...

Hey, Donna!
Glad you put it up and gave your honest opinion!

Sonja said...

Donna, that makes sense. The "had" construction you are referring to is the past perfect aspect - and, actually, I never knew it was a writing no-no, like the passive voice. Whoo for learning something new.

Maria D'Isidoro said...

Even before I got to your review, I cringed at the name Destiny.

As they often say in the music industry, those who can't do critique. While that's not a hard rule for any art form, as both a reviewer and an aspiring writer, it's far easier to see what's wrong in someone else's novel than it is to see in your own project. You're so close to it, there's no way your perspective can be objective. That's why there are SO MANY drafts and revisions.

It's sad that she stumbled on her first try, but being a reviewer does not give anyone an immediate pass to good writing.

Vampires and Tofu said...

Award for you on my blog =)

Lauren said...

I haven't read any other reviews of this one yet, although I'll look out for them now - it's interesting to see how these things compare.

It's also interesting that you hesitated about posting this review. A critic for a national newspaper probably wouldn't. You've justified your opinion and your review is eloquent and readable, so I have to admire you for choosing to post it. It shows a professional approach, in my opinion.

Cleverly Inked said...

Honesty is always appreciated. I do enjoy it. I think even with the bad I might give it a whirl.

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